One of the first rules of engagement in any municipal party coming into City Hall with a majority is not to get your voters hissing at each other or grumpy in the first ninety days. That applies to the ABC party which has won seven of the ten seats on Council, and also has the majority on Parks Board.
The ABC party’s platform which has disappeared off the campaign website was silent on the Park Board mobility study and road use which is currently considering transportation in the park.
Forty-five days after the election there is a Park Board motion to remove the temporary bike lane off Park Drive for “congestion” reasons. Previously it was being maintained on a temporary basis.
The dedicated bike lane on Park Drive meant that motorists did not have to deal with cyclists on their portion of the road, and of course each cyclist represents one less car and a decrease in congestion. It also meant that the cycling lane could encourage more people to bicycle and exercise in a safe way on the road.
After Stanley Park’s Park Drive was closed to motorists during the pandemic, one lane for vehicles and one lane for cyclists were reopened in June 2020. The purpose of the temporary bike lane was to give pedestrians along the seawall more space to physically distance.
In September 2020 full vehicle access on Park Drive returned. In March 2021 Park Board staff were directed to implement a temporary bike lane that was to stay in place until the end of October 2021. That temporary use was extended in November 2021 to be in place until the Stanley Park Mobility Study was completed.
But not now with a motion from the ABC dominated Park Board to return Park Drive entirely to two lanes of vehicular driver traffic.
Part of the challenge is the use of this city park: businesses in the park got their contracts catering to well heeled tourists. Those tourists need vehicular traffic to roll through effortlessly for visits that are tourist destination oriented for big dollar eating and shopping. And of course during the pandemic those businesses were closed.
Over 40 percent of the budget for Park Board is garnered from revenue, which has meant that it is the tourist dollar that counts. For 2020 the Vancouver Park Board had an operating budget of 136 million dollars, with 63 million dollars coming from revenue and 73 million dollars coming from city taxes.
That’s why there are few services for local families or cyclists in Stanley Park, the revenue maker.
Of course if there was no Park Board in the first place the revenue model could dramatically change, as there would not be a whole separate Parks bureaucracy that needs the funding. Vancouver is the last city in Canada that has a separately elected Park Board with staff and vehicles that only look at parks.
Local residents want to use the park as their backyard recreational place, and have a pleasant walk or cycle through it as part of staying mentally and physically well. The downtown area is also getting more development, and not a whole lot of other parks, making Park Drive a great way for cycling exercise. And demand for recreational cycling, e-bike and scooter access is just going to increase.
A good first step to addressing “congestion” on Park Drive would have been retiring the horse cart service in Stanley Park. This business slows vehicular traffic drivers and is a type of colonial use of animals that has been banned in other cities. It’s time that outmoded model of requiring draft horses to pound on pavement should be put out to pasture. It’s the right thing to do, as activist singer Jann Arden continually reminds Vancouver.
As the city densifies more locals are using Stanley Park for recreation as their closest park. A preliminary report on the Stanley Park Mobility Study shows that there were 18 million annual visits by 9.5 million people, with 48 percent of those people visiting living within ten kilometers of the park. That 48 percent visit the park an average of 55 times a year and use it as their main park.
The Park Board’s own Mobility Study in initial findings (You can take a look at the 94 page report here) identifies that 51 percent of trips into Stanley Park are now by walking or rolling, 33 percent by vehicle, 15 percent by bike and 1 percent by transit. Of people surveyed 70 percent see reducing vehicular traffic as important to lessen emissions and noise, and want to share road space with other modes.
Winter is never a busy time for vehicular drivers on Park Drive. As anyone that has biked or walked the increasingly crowded seawall around Stanley Park can attest, there’s a need for either wider bike/walk lanes or other alternative places to bike. Allowing two lanes of driver traffic in one direction is known to make vehicle drivers travel faster-few drivers adhere to the 30 km/h rule, and it is not enforced.
Stanley Park business owners have said that the bike lane on Park Drive has meant that their businesses, most which are focused on tourists, have been impacted. Of course no one can forecast whether two lanes for vehicle drivers will make much of a difference to those business owners in December and January when the tourists aren’t there.
In the past a separately elected and funded park board may have been advantageous; in modern times it leads to disagreements and things being let go. An example is the promised and agreed upon Mount Pleasant Pool replacement which was ignored by City Hall because a group of residents didn’t want a pool near them.
There’s also the case of the Stanley Park miniature train which was also punted to the side, requiring maintenance for rails and for the train cars.
Monday evening the new Park Board with the ABC Majority will vote to take out the temporary bike lane on Park Drive and put Stanley Park access solidly back into the 20th century.
Cycling advocate @Lucyincanada will be there to address the Park Board as they consider “A solution that better meets the demonstrated needs of all park users, and park partners”.
The motion reads to include accessibility for the disabled, safer multimodal access to the park, equitable access for recreation and cultural users, and better tourist access to reduce idling and addressing “new micro-mobility modes”. That is very similar to what the original Stanley Park Mobility Study was already doing, but with this motion the new Park Board intends to get vehicle drivers back to their two lanes of driving, with cyclists on the side.
So why the motion now, when this is basically what the original feasibility study was doing in the first place? Simply to close the Park Drive bike lane in a gesture for Stanley Park tourist oriented businesses to trump local resident recreational bike users. There’s no other reason.
What this probably means is carving out a separate bike path along the existing two lanes of vehicular traffic in the park at some future point.
The “modified” mobility study is expected to be reported back to the Park Board in early 2023.
You can review the complete motion before the Park Board here.
If you want to watch the meeting online, you can do that Monday evening here.
As a local I have mixed feelings. We are too old to ride our bikes, but if more bike lanes in the park gets them off the Seawall, that is a good thing. On the other hand we no longer go to eat at any of the restaurants due to traffic congestion. Our big concern is the coyotes. There are fewer than there were, but still enough that we no longer feel safe walking our dogs in the park. Our littlest dog was snatched from his lead last year, but was rescued by my husband and our bigger dog. the little guy was ok, but very scared.
nonsense. I’ve driven around the park 100s of times in the last 2 years. I haven’t once seen any of this “congestion”. I’ve never once seen a parking lot more that 60% full
I’m shocked that, in the face of a growing climate crisis – and the demonstrably overwhelming contribution of light and heavy duty vehicles to this province’s GHG emissions inventory (to which Metro Vancouver, with half of BC’s population and majority of drivers, over-contributes) – that the Vancouver Park Board would choose to pour more concrete into green space to maintain the carbon status quo, rather than force residents to adapt to new circumstances. Unbelievable. When it comes to noteworthy examples of steps backward on climate and transportation policies, Vancouver is apparently going for world-class.
I watched the Parks Board meeting this evening and I am disgusted with what I witnessed.
I am a senior (72 years old) and my partner has mobility challenges and is not able to ride a bike – although I do regularly. Neither of us want Stanley Park to be filled with pollution spewing cars.
Commissioner Haer stated that she wants the Park to be available for everyone – but the ABC Commissioners have done the opposite! They are making the Park only available for vehicle drivers. And this during a climate emergency! Many people in Vancouver do NOT own a car!
It will now not be possible for me to ride safely with my kids and future grandkids, in the Park. It will not be safe as we will be at risk of being hit by speeding cars. We will also be breathing car fumes. The seawall is of course pleasant but it is very crowded but my electric assist bike cannot get through the barriers – let alone if I was pulling a child carrier.
My partner would love to be able to access the Park by hop-on-hop-off shuttle bus. Why has this not been considered?
In spite of apparently 519 emails in opposition (and only 49 in favour) the PB have rammed this decision through. I’m shocked.
And thank you Commissioner Digby for trying your best to be the voice of reason.
The lack of serious input from any commissioner except for the Green party’s Tom Digby in the rubber stamping last night of this motion to waste more money by removing the bike lane is another reason that we need to get rid of this wasteful board. There is no real traffic congestion except that caused by the horse cart. The idea that a single lane is an issue for accessibility for people with disabilities is absurd, given a recent Washington State study that showed that the disabled were 4 times less likely to own an automobile. The real answer to accessibility to the furthest corners of the park is to provide expanded bus service or a shuttle.
It looks like it’s time for a Stanley Park version of Critical Mass to return. I would love to see both lanes of traffic taken up by people on bikes – including seniors, families with kids, bike trailers, cargo bikes etc . A big banner at the end of ride could say “STANLEY PARK FOR ALL – NOT JUST THOSE IN CARS! These rides could happen every Saturday and Sunday afternoon until we get safe cycling infrastructure back. Who will join me in the spring?
ABC is making the understandable mistake of assuming that people support their whole agenda. It was fear of disorder that got them elected, not rage at Stanley Park “traffic”. Let them flex. All they’ve managed to do is turn this side issue into a cause. The next Council is going to make the 1 vehicle lane permanent. It’s like Kabuki Theatre sometimes.